Thursday, 22 April 2010

iPhone OS 4.0: The Enterprise Mobility Perspective

So the day many of us have been waiting for is upon us. Apple just announced iPhone OS 4.0.

Having just finished watching the presentation on a couple of different web sites, I came away with some mixed feelings. As usual, details were rather light on the topics that mattered to me most (the enterprise mobility perspective), to focus instead on the things that Apple understands best – consumer desire.

There were some interesting side statistics that came out.

* About 450,000 iPads have been sold to date. That’s pretty impressive for something that is so new. It certainly doesn’t match the iPhone numbers, but let’s not forget that the Tablet PC is a “new” concept for the consumer.
* Speaking of the iPhone, over 50 MILLION have been sold thus far. All you can say to that is WOW.
* The App Store has over 185,000 apps on it. No count on how many are actually useful ;-)
* The mobile web. 64% of mobile web traffic takes place on the iPhone. No wonder AT&T has gotten so much bad press in the last 12 months around its network

Now onto the 4th iteration of the OS. First off, it definitely takes visual cues from the iPad. This is not at all surprising, and is in fact very logical in terms of providing a consistent user experience. There are also 1,500 new APIs that are being made available to developers. For the most part, they will fall under seven “Tentpoles:”

Tentpole #1 – Multitasking

Hallelujah! Funny how last March, the folks at Apple were telling us that multitasking was bad for the consumer. We in the enterprise have been waiting for this since the very advent of the iPhone. Interestingly these services are being provided as APIs. The Multitasking Services include:

1. Background Audio – OK, so you can now play audio in the background. Unless we’re talking about audio tutorials, I’m not sure how this is relevant to the enterprise.
2. VoIP – The fact that the new OS can support VoIP in a multitasking fashion is huge. Not surprisingly, Apple showed off the Skype application, but I can think of just a couple of companies (you know…like Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft, Siemens, IBM, just to name a few) that just may get excited at how this can now make Mobile UC on the iPhone real.
3. Background Location – Again, this will have huge potential. The easiest one that came to mind was for contextual wireless expense management. Imagine where you have an IT policy that has been set up by your company that prevents data roaming based upon your GPS locator. This is not new for other platforms, but does bring the iPhone up to par in this context.
4. Push Notifications - This was touched upon so lightly because there wasn’t anything new here really.
5. Local Notifications – The biggest deal I got from this was that it will no longer need to put a strain on the Apple servers (not that they can’t afford to buy a bunch of servers). I’m not sure yet how that will impact users.
6. Task Completion – This has some good potential in my opinion for the field/fleet service sector. Imagine as an insurance adjuster being able to take a picture of the claim, start the upload process and continue filling out the rest of your forms. That’s a nice time saver, I guess.
7. Fast App Switching – What…Versus slow app switching?

What wasn’t touched upon was multi-THREADING. Will applications be able to fully interact with each other? That could eventually pose a problem with application compatibility, or worse viruses and malware. My sense is we’ll all have to keep a close eye on that.

Tentpole #2 -Folders

All I can say is, it’s about the hell time. However the demo does not go into any details on how folders will play out for files vs. applications.

Tentpole #3 – Enhanced eMail

1. More than one Exchange account - This is very nice, although I can think of another company that had done so about a year ago.
2. Threaded conversations – OK, again, nice to have, but nothing earth shattering
3. Fast account switching – See point #2 above
4. Open attachments with applications – Now this has potential. I’m thinking about how productivity application companies such as QuickOffice can certainly use this kind of functionality to their advantage. You have to wonder if there will ever be a Microsoft Office available for the iPhone (doubt it).

Tentpole #4 – iBooks

I must admit to you that I’m not an avid reader of books. Sometimes, I’ll go back and read a classic that I haven’t looked at since my university days, but beyond that, I read enough during the day. When I want to relax and read, then I go open my beloved Economist magazine.

But now, onto the good stuff…..

Tentpole #5 – Enterprise Features

And at 10:43, some words I have been waiting to hear for ages:

1. Even better data protection – Well, frankly that’s not hard to say
2. Mobile device management – No details provided
3. Wireless app distribution – Again, little to now details
4. Multiple exchange accounts (we talked about this earlier)
5. Exchange Server 2010 - OK, this is good, but will the new OS support more of the built-in policies? The challenge though comes from Point #4. If you have more than one Exchange account, which one governs the device?
6. SSL VPN support – Uhm….OK. I’m not a security expert.

But at 10:46 they were on to the next Tentpole. Three whopping minutes spent on Enterprise features. Not surprising in one respect given the audience, but to have just glossed over such important topics makes me wonder how deep the improvements are actually going to be. Now mind you, I have heard that some of the data protection improvements are very large improvements, but I can’t speak to those yet.
Tentpole #6 – Game Center

I am behind the times and don’t know anything about games since the days of “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, B, A, START” (kudos to you if you know what I am referring to)
Tentpole #7 – iAd

We all knew it was coming. The Toy Story 3 and Michael Jordan demos were rather impressive. I’ll admit that I also liked the not so thinly veiled dig to Adobe with the comment on it all being done in HTML5. While I am not a fan of mobile advertising, I do see a very interesting opportunity for B2C applications…or perhaps even B2B2C applications coming down the pike.

The Target example is very much along the lines of what I was thinking. Imagine being able to create your own application that will then be able to sense your location, as well as the current inventories you have in your stores and provide you advertisements or mobile coupons on the fly.

Not surprisingly, this will be available in the summer. And at 11:02 am PDT, my device became all but obsolete….especially in the enterprise. How do you ask? The iPhone 3G will not support multitasking. I’m not sure I understand what hardware specifications are different in 3GS and 3G that would prevent it (I guess it’s not powerful enough). Candidly, this feels more like a way to get people and their companies to go spend money on new devices…maybe even a iPhone 4G should that be announced soon.

So all in all a mixed bag. There are some certainly welcome additions to the iPhone OS by throwing out so many buzzwords in the three minutes that made up Tentpole #5. However, with all things, the devil is in the details and I am sure we’ll learn more soon enough.

Don't forget, if you need to manage a large scale trial or deployment of iPhone or iPad, can assist in the provisioning, security and ongoing management of your estate as well as supporting other Smartphones such as Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, PalmPre & Android.

Are you excited about iPhone OS 4.0? Sound off in the comments.

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